The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently found itself in a fix after sending a letter to 12 institutions conducting human clinical trials for Covaxin, a vaccine jointly developed by ICMR and Bharat Biotech, demanding that the vaccine be ready for public use by August 15, at the latest.
After facing much backlash from the medical community for the hurried deadline, the ICMR, did a U-turn and said that it not set August 15 as a deadline, but wanted institutions to do away with unnecessary red tape without bypassing necessary processes, finish trials quickly and make the vaccine available. The Indian Academy of Sciences had also called the August 15 deadline unfeasible.
With 12 million cases globally and more than 7.67 lakh cases in India, the world is placing its collective hope and efforts into developing a vaccine that would tackle COVID-19 virus. A number of companies are racing against time to develop vaccines to fight the pandemic:
We take a look at some of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates who are advancing their efforts to develop a safe and reliable vaccine.
Covaxin: India’s first coronavirus vaccine is set for human trials next week. Developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the ICMR, the vaccine will be trialled on 375 people in the first phase and 750 people in the subsequent phase. The trial process has already started in Hyderabad’s Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS). The vaccine has been developed at Bharat Biotech’s high containment facility. The ICMR has shortlisted around 12 hospitals for the clinical trials post which it hopes to make the vaccine available for public use.
ZyCov-D: The Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSO) has granted permission to Zydus to conduct Phase 1 and 2 human clinical trials for its vaccine ZyCov-D. India’s second indigenous coronavirus vaccine is being developed by Ahmedabad based Zydus Cadila in the company’s Vaccine Technology Centre. As per reports, once phase 1 and phase 2 are completed, the regulator may allow the vaccine to go on Phase 3 trials. After the trials, it may take another three months for the vaccine to come into the market.
mRNA-1273: Developed by American biotech company Moderna, the coronavirus vaccine candidate is being supported by the US government with nearly half a billion dollars as funding. A Reuters report suggests that, while ahead of the other US candidates developing a vaccine, there have been disagreements between the company and US Govt scientists, leading to delays in launching trials by more than two weeks. As per the report, Moderna and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are sparring over elements of testing, including patient monitoring and information sharing.
AZD1222: The vaccine candidate is produced by AstraZeneca, a British Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company, in partnership with Pune-based vaccine Serum Institute, and developed by Oxford University. The Serum Institute has invested USD 100 million to mass-produce one billion doses for India and other low-and-middle-income countries. According to Oxford University, the vaccine is “made from a virus (ChAdOx1), which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees". The Oxford Group plans to launch the vaccine by the end of the year if the trials are successful. However, it is at least six months away from launch.
CoronaVac: The Chinese biotech company Sinovac Biotech is starting Phase III clinical trials of its potential vaccine, being developed in collaboration with Instituto Butantan, a Brazilian producer of immunobiological products and vaccines. As per reports, the study will be done on nearly 9,000 healthcare professionals working in COVID-19 specialised units across the country starting this month. In June, Sinovac had reported positive results after Phase I/II trials. Sinovac had initiated the development of CoronaVac in the end of January, this year.
BNT162b1: Early trials on the vaccine BNT162b1 jointly developed by American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTECH is showing positive results, as per reports. According to the study, the number of antibodies produced by a person who received two shots of the vaccine was higher than in patients receiving convalescent plasma.
NVX‑CoV2373: The Government of the United States has given USD 1.6 billion for testing and manufacture of its COVID-19 vaccine under the Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the US Federal government. Through the funding, the US government will own 100 million doses for Americans, support large-scale manufacturing and Phase 3 clinical trials for up to 30,000 subjects. The NVX‑CoV2373 has been engineered from the genetic sequence of SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Ad5-nCoV: Jointly developed by CanSino Biologics and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, the vaccine has been approved for military use in China. Clinical trials on the vaccine have proven that it is safe and somewhat efficient. The company has, however, said that its commercial success cannot be guaranteed and hence is currently limited to military use only.
INO-4800: On June 30, American biotech company Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced positive results during the interim clinical trials from the first two. phase 1 clinical trial cohorts of its COVID-19 vaccine, INO-4800. The early-stage clinical trials, which initially enrolled 40 adult volunteers aged 18 to 50 years, showed the vaccine to be safe with some efficacy. INO-4800 is a nucleic-acid based vaccine that is stable in room temperature and does not require to be frozen while in transport and storage.
Ad26.COV2-S: American multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson recently inked a five-year work order, worth atleast USD 480 million with CDMO Emergent BioSolutions to help produce J&J’s vaccine candidate. For the first two years of the deal, Emergent will serve as a contract development and manufacturing organisation to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of Johnson & Johnson. As per reports, Johnson and Johnson aims to conduct clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks and produce billions of doses in 2021.
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